MOREHEAD CITY — Jeff McCann went eight years between hosting Crystal Coast Grand Prix races.
He may wait just 40 days before hosting the next big powerboat event in Morehead City.
With news Tuesday that Englewood Beach Waterfest had declined to host this year’s Offshore Powerboat Association World Championships due to the coronavirus pandemic, the OPA came calling on McCann.
“They asked me, and I said ‘bring it on,’” the owner of Jack’s Waterfront Bar said. “They’ve handed us a great opportunity. We just need to take advantage of it. We don’t have it yet, because I’ve got to get it confirmed by everyone, but we’re working on it. I think there’s pretty good odds we’ll be able to do it.”
Last weekend, McCann hosted the first and only OPA race of the season – the association normally hosts 12 races in a campaign. The World Championships would be held Oct. 23-25.
The Crystal Coast Grand Prix was considered a success with 42 boats showing up and 35 racing on the boomerang course adored by drivers.
“Having raced in Morehead City, N.C., this past weekend,” wrote OPA Vice President Nick Smith on the organization’s Facebook page. “The operation is still fresh in everyone’s mind. OPA is confident that we will be able to capture lightning in bottle for the second time this season at the Crystal Coast. Running a race twice in one season is unprecedented in offshore racing, but drastic times call for drastic measures.
McCann said everything is still mostly in place to host the World Championships in just five weeks.
“I’ve got sponsors ready to go,” he said. “I’ve got access to the cranes we need for the boats. The course is ready. The buoys are there. It’s mapped out. Those logistics are in place.”
McCann said he needed to get the World Championships approved by entities such as the town and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“A lot of it is in the Coast Guard’s hands,” he said. “I’ve been on the phone with them for the last three days. It’s short notice. You just have to make sure you aren’t disrupting commercial fishermen or mariners. I just want everybody to be happy. I’m not looking to make anybody mad.”
The Offshore Powerboat Association World Championships, which drew 75 boats last year, is the centerpiece of the Englewood Beach Waterfest, which typically includes a block party on Dearborn Street, Englewood, Fla. near the usually quiet shores of Manasota Key.
According to the Englewood Sun, an independent study estimated in 2016 that Waterfest generated $5.5 million or more to Charlotte County from out-of-county visitors and racing teams.
The four-day event costs $350,000 to produce and requires 400 volunteers. Last year, 40,000 people attended the festival.
The nonprofit’s board of directors voted Monday to cancel this year’s activities.
“After examining and reviewing the statistics, health concerns, social distancing guidelines, and other factors involved, we made the call to not hold the November 2020 event during the current COVID-19 environment.” Waterfest President Steve Gardiner stated in a press release Tuesday. “Although we have not seen an increase in COVID-19 cases locally, as residents and business owners ourselves, we were faced with insurmountable obstacles that prevent us from holding a high-caliber, quality event this year.”